Monday, April 25, 2011

Visual Meetings

Back when I had 2 babies less than 2 years apart I became an ebay addict. There's not a single room in my home where I can't point to something I bought on ebay back then. If you know ebay, you know there isn't anything you can't find there. In their art section they have a category called outsider art. I used to browse through pages of artwork just to kill time between diapers. There was one particular artist I followed, waiting until he posted something I couldn't live without. The artist's ebay handle was Zen and Ink. He did beautiful, simple ink drawings on cocktail napkins. Something about them just struck me and I'd search for new works every few days. I never bought anything and eventually there was no new work posted. I don't know if he found a new medium or just gave up on ebay. Maybe he was discovered and he's hanging in a gallery somewhere to great acclaim.

In any case, that's what I thought of when I was browsing on Amazon recently and came across a book entitled The Back of the Napkin, by Dan Roam. But Roam's book isn't about napkin artwork, it's about using pictures to solve problems and persuade people. While I was reading the book and researching the idea I came across David Sibbett's Visual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity. I've already decided to implement some of the ideas I've picked up from these two authors. The gist of their work is that using simple images is a very effective way to communicate ideas clearly in a group setting. It's a very low-tech idea that I really like as a collaboration tool. How many times have you come away from a meeting thinking everyone was on the same page, only to find out later that not everyone saw things the same way? Adding visual restatements, explanations and clarifications can go a long way to making sure everyone is speaking the same language. And you don't need to have any artistic talent. Both authors provide you with simple techniques and the use of some basic shapes that can do most of the heavy lifting. Of course, for you artists out there, this would be a real opportunity to not only enhance your group work but also showcase your inner artiste. Check out these great books and go visual in your meetings!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Innovation and collaboration

Recently I came across a white paper published by the Wisconsin Society of Association Executive entitled Innovation for Associations. The paper led me to the Innovation Hub for Associations. Innovation is written into NELLCO's mission statement and we aspire to be innovators. I think we're successful. And the reason we're successful is laid out very clearly in the WSAE whitepaper. The authors posit four traits of organizations that are successful innovators:
  1. Culture of innovation driven from the top of the organization
  2. Commitment of resources to the process of innovation
  3. Understanding the mind of the community
  4. Freedom to experiment and fail
NELLCO ticks every box. I would say that each of these is also true for collaboration. If you replace the word 'innovation' with 'collaboration' in numbers 1 and 2 on the list, the same traits will be found in organizations that are successful collaborators.

Which of these do you think is the hardest to cultivate? I think understanding the mind of the community is a moving target. It's like trying to squash a blob of mercury under your thumb (remember when we played with mercury!). "The mind of the community" is a misconstruction. Is there anywhere a community that thinks with a single mind? The job of NELLCO and other organizations is to understand the minds of the communities they serve. No small task. What are some ways an organization might approach this?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

All librarians should read Curation Nation!

OK, I'm not done with it yet but I'm still recommending it. Steven Rosenbaum has done an excellent job of capturing the current state of affairs in content creation and information distribution. His book should warm the hearts of every librarian out there who fears being rendered obsolete by the new information economy. According to my reading of Rosenbaum, as practitioners of a discipline steeped in the tradition of curation, librarians ARE the next big thing! We've been ahead of the curve all along.  Despite his mischaracterization of librarians as "a group of daunting and often stern people," the curated world Rosenbaum envisions is OUR world! "Curation," says Rosenbaum, "has always been the process of discerning quality." EXACTLY! I think we should throw over the term 'collection development' in favor of 'curation.' And get this pearl from Rosenbaum. "No longer is the owner of the distribution system the king of the castle. Today, curation is king." (emphasis mine!) This is our day people! As Stephen Abram said on his blog Stephen's Lighthouse, "If library land can’t find a strong positioning in this world, we’re not looking hard enough." READ THIS BOOK! Discuss!